A group of landowners in Webster County, Kentucky, have filed inverse condemnation claims against the federal government for the taking of their land abutting the abandoned 8.5 mile-long Western Kentucky Railway corridor. The Railroad had an easement limited to railroad purposes. Under the terms of the relevant easement instruments and under Kentucky law, once the Railroad ceased operating a railroad across the right-of-way, the railroad easement was abandoned and Plaintiffs, as the fee owners, regained their right to the exclusive use and physical possession of their property. The Railroad has entered into negotiations with Webster County for the acquisition of an easement for a public-access recreational trail to be located on the abandoned railroad corridor. Under the terms of the original railroad easement and under Kentucky law, the County does not own or possess any right to grant the County an easement across Plaintiffs’ land.
In 2010, the Railroad sought permission from the federal Surface Transportation Board to abandon this line. The STB issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use on October 12, 2011. The federal order –the NITU- prevented landowners from regaining their state law rights to the land. This is the “federal taking” that took these landowners’ properties in October 2011. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that this taking is constitutional, but that the government must pay the landowners “just compensation” pursuant to the Fifth Amendment.
The Kentucky landowners filed their claims on August 24. The landowners now have a limited period to join any other neighboring landowners who wish to vindicate their constitution rights to just compensation for the government’s taking of their property.
For more information about this case, please contact Lindsay Brinton.